Togetherville wants to engage 6- to 10-year-olds on a social networking site. But don't worry -- the site won't expose your child's information to the entire world and won't bombard kids with advertising.
Like Facebook -- and unlike virtual worlds like Club Penguin -- children on Togetherville are identified by their real names and real pictures, but the only people they can interact with are other children who have been pre-approved by their parents.
It's a different model than anything I've seen before, and after a preview and several conversations with founder Mandeep Dhillon, I'm very impressed with what they are trying to do.
The idea behind Togetherville is to create online "neighborhoods" similar to real-life neighborhoods where children interact with each other and adults they know.
Only a parent can set up a child's Togetherville account and link the child to other children and trusted adults such as grandparents and other family members.
Children can interact with other Togetherville members but only by selecting prescreened "quips," text comments approved by Togetherville staff. That greatly reduces the chances of cyberbullying and abusive behavior and eliminates any opportunity for a child to reveal personal information such as their home address.
Parent Needs a Facebook Account
One interesting twist is that parents must be Facebook members to sign up a child on Togetherville.
Parents log into Togetherville using their Facebook username and password, and after the account is established, use Facebook to link kids with family members and other adults or teens who are Facebook members or to other children via their parents' Facebook account.
To assure maximum privacy and safety, no information about the child is ever transferred by Togetherville to Facebook. All interactions involving children takes place on Togetherville ---- never on Facebook. ConnectSafely.org, the non-profit Internet safety organization I help operate, advised Togetherville on its safety and privacy policies and developed a short video to help Togetherville parents better understand how to protect their own privacy on Facebook. Disclosure: Togetherville is one of several companies that provides financial support to ConnectSafely.
The only way information about a child's Togetherville activity can make it on to Facebook is if the parent types it in, but that's always been the case. I know plenty of parents who put up information about their kids and photos on their Facebook pages to share with their friends.
The site offers a variety of experiences for young children including videos, games and the ability to create works of art. Kids will be able to earn "badges," designed to reinforce positive behavior on the site. All content is pre-screened by Togetherville staff.
All services are currently free,, but the company plans to offer premium services which children will pay for using virtual cash converted from real money added to their account by parents and other adults. '
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